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A sociological perspective on measuring social norms by means of strategy method experiments


  • Heiko Rauhut

    (ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)

  • Fabian Winter

    (Max Planck Institute of Economics)


The measurement of social norms plays a pivotal role in many social sciences. While economists predominantly conduct experiments, sociologists rather employ (factorial) surveys. Both methods, however, suffer from distinct weaknesses. Experiments, on the one hand, often fall short in the measurement of more complex elements, such as the conditionality or the level of consensus of social norms. Surveys, on the other, lack the ability to measure actual behavior. This paper argues that the so-called "strategy method" compensates for these weaknesses by combining the observational characteristic of experiments with the conditionality of factorial surveys. We can demonstrate the applicability of the strategy method for the measure- ment of conditional bargaining norms in the case of ultimatum games. To substantiate our claim, we conduct a methodological experiment in which we compare results for the strategy ultimatum game with those from a "conventional" ultimatum game. The strategy method yields higher levels of normative compliance in terms of rejecting "unfair" offers. We conclude that the strategy method rather measures normative expectations whereas the "conventional" ultimatum game the willingness to sacrifice own profits to adhere to these expectations. Our results are consistent with previous comparative research between factorial surveys and observational data.

Suggested Citation

  • Heiko Rauhut & Fabian Winter, 2009. "A sociological perspective on measuring social norms by means of strategy method experiments," Jena Economics Research Papers 2009-054, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  • Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2009-054

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    Cited by:

    1. Tobias Regner & Gerhard Riener, 2011. "Motivational Cherry Picking," Jena Economics Research Papers 2011-029, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    2. Paolo Crosetto & Ori Weisel & Fabian Winter, 2012. "A flexible z-Tree implementation of the Social Value Orientation Slider Measure (Murphy et al. 2011) - Manual -," Jena Economics Research Papers 2012-062, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    3. Casal, Sandro & Kogler, Christoph & Mittone, Luigi & Kirchler, Erich, 2016. "Tax compliance depends on voice of taxpayers," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 141-150.
    4. Alice Becker, 2013. "Accountability and the fairness bias: the effects of effort vs. luck," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 41(3), pages 685-699, September.
    5. Felix Bader & Bastian Baumeister & Roger Berger & Marc Keuschnigg, 2021. "On the Transportability of Laboratory Results," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 50(3), pages 1452-1481, August.
    6. Chavez, Alex K. & Bicchieri, Cristina, 2013. "Third-party sanctioning and compensation behavior: Findings from the ultimatum game," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 268-277.
    7. Alice Becker, 2011. "Accountability and the fairness bias in the context of joint production: Effects of bonuses and opportunities," Jena Economics Research Papers 2011-004, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    8. Winter, Fabian & Rauhut, Heiko & Miller, Luis, 2018. "Dynamic Bargaining and Normative Conflict," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 112-126.
    9. Fabian Winter & Mitesh Kataria, 2013. "You Are Who Your Friends Are: An Experiment on Trust and Homophily in Friendship Networks," Jena Economics Research Papers 2013-044, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    10. Caroline Graf & Eva-Maria Merz & Bianca Suanet & Pamala Wiepking, 2021. "Social Norms Offer Explanation for Inconsistent Effects of Incentives on Prosocial Behavior," Papers 2104.13652,
    11. Luis Miller & Heiko Rauhut & Fabian Winter, 2011. "The emergence of norms from conflicts over just distributions," Jena Economics Research Papers 2011-018, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    12. Crosetto, Paolo & Weisel, Ori & Winter, Fabian, 2019. "A flexible z-Tree and oTree implementation of the Social Value Orientation Slider Measure," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 46-53.
    13. Thomas Neumann & Sabrina Kierspel & Ivo Windrich & Roger Berger & Bodo Vogt, 2018. "How to Split Gains and Losses? Experimental Evidence of Dictator and Ultimatum Games," Games, MDPI, vol. 9(4), pages 1-19, October.
    14. Fabian Winter & Mitesh Kataria, 2020. "You are who your friends are?," Rationality and Society, , vol. 32(2), pages 223-251, May.
    15. Fabian Winter, 2013. "Fairness norms can explain the emergence of specific cooperation norms in the Battle of the Prisoners Dilemma," Jena Economics Research Papers 2013-016, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    16. Amelie Aidenberger & Heiko Rauhut & Jörg Rössel, 2020. "Is participation in high-status culture a signal of trustworthiness?," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(5), pages 1-23, May.

    More about this item


    Social norms; measurement; ultimatum game; strategy method; factorial surveys;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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